Bridging the Gap: A health inequalities learning resource

NHS Scotland and the health inequalities challenge

 We now have the moral leadership of the world Aneurin Bevan, Secretary of State for Health, 1948


Section4 - consultation, notice board, midwife

With these words, Aneurin Bevan conveyed the optimism and hope of the time, and his deeply-held conviction that establishing the NHS was the right, just and proper thing to do.

The NHS celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2008 and the founding principles of universal care, accessible at the time of need and from 'the Cradle to the Grave' were discussed and debated at length in the media coverage.

The 60th anniversary was a celebration of a remarkable British institution and the principles on which it was founded, and yet much of the media debate focused on the challenges facing the NHS today.

An air of inevitability was evident in the tone of some such debates. While deemed a noble venture in its time, it is regarded by some as simply unsustainable in its current form. We increasingly hear for example, about:

  • Growing demands on health and social care services, e.g. from an ageing population
  • Reductions in public spending
  • Limited health funding with which to fund the seemingly endless stream of new and expensive drugs and treatments, and 
  • The struggles facing healthcare staff, with a 2008 reported by the BBC suggesting many nurses felt they were struggling to assure basic dignity and respect.
  • And as we've already noted, the health inequality gap, far from narrowing, has been increasing in recent years.

Rises in unemployment, personal indebtedness, food and fuel prices, allied to plans to reform the welfare system, the housing market slump and ongoing concerns about the state of the world's economy are inflating the numbers of people and families living in poverty in Britain, and the evidence suggests that certain groups (women, young people and others) are being disproportionately affected.

This then is the context in which NHS Scotland seeks to reduce health and social inequalities. It is a challenging time for all of us concerned with reducing health inequalities and inequities.

And yet let us note that reducing the health and social inequality gap is central to realisation of the Scottish Government ambitions, for a modern, progressive Scotland, one that is:

 wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer and stronger, and greener… 


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